President Biden once again called on Congress today to act on gun control when he lays out his comprehensive strategy on violent crime prevention during White House remarks.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed two bills on March 11 that would expand background checks on all commercial gun sales, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is yet to bring the legislation on the Senate floor.
While strong proposals like a ban on assault-style weapons or high capacity magazines are not currently seriously being discussed at the federal level, there are areas of agreement — though that may not be enough to get anything passed.
Here are key things to know about what is being considered in Congress:
Background checks: The first of the two recently passed bills, H.R. 8, expands background checks for all firearm sales or transfers in the country including between private parties, at gun shows or over the internet. Currently, background checks are not required for gun sales and transfers by unlicensed and private sellers.
This has bipartisan support. The final vote on the background check bill was 227-203 in the House. Eight Republicans supported the legislation and one Democrat voted against it.
But it needs a supermajority in the Senate. It’s clear the legislation does not have the support it needs (at least not right now) to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Closing loopholes: A bill backed by Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina had less support than expanding background checks. It passed the House 218 – 210, without any Republican support.
It would close what’s known as the “Charleston Loophole,” which allows some licensed gun sales to go through before a required background check is done. Specifically, it increases the amount of time, from 3 business days to a minimum of 10 business days, that a federal firearms licensee must wait to receive a completed background check prior to transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person
Using that loophole, Dylann Roof was able to legally purchase a firearm to kill nine people at a historically Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
It needs a supermajority in the Senate. This legislation also does not have the support it needs (at least not right now) to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
We don’t know which will come first: Either Democrats must all agree to end the filibuster or Republicans must begin to support gun control measures in larger numbers. Until then, there will be no new federal gun laws.
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